RLT Cinema: George Carlin’s “Religion is B.S.”

Only he wouldn’t put it like that.

Today’s feature on RLT Cinema comes from the late George Carlin, whose “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” is a classic in stand-up comedy (but beware for those of you who think you can’t poison your ears with dirty words).  Several years ago, Carlin did an HBO special where he skewered religion, specifically Christianity.  The clip is a shade over ten minutes, so it’s a little lengthy.  If you’ve been a Christian for awhile, your immediate reaction will be, “Oh my, he can’t say those things!  I can’t watch this!”  Instead, listen to what he’s saying.  He brings up some legit concerns with “organized religion” that turn many people off.

The RLT Player is in the widget bar to the right.  Simply click on the George Carlin frame to begin viewing.

WARNING:  Contains profanity.  If you’ve decided that hearing profanity isn’t good for your faith, then please don’t view it.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, how do you respond to Carlin’s observations?  If you’re not, what are some of the objections you have to Christianity?

About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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9 Responses to RLT Cinema: George Carlin’s “Religion is B.S.”

  1. Wow. Watched the whole thing. My heart is aching for the entire audience who cheered along in one man’s response to hurts and lies in his heart. What’s crazy is that you know George almost HAD to have grown up in a church…he seemed to know a bit more than the “average American” about Christianity…ya know? What sucks the most is the perverted Gospel that he was taught…the reality is that for whatever reason “THAT” is what he walked away with from his experiences (whatever they were) of God and the Christian faith. May we all move forward with a new agenda, combat messages like this with the unashamed, confident, NON-defensive love of God. Thanks for sharing this video Aaron.

    • Aaron says:

      You bet, buddy. Excellent thoughts. Carlin did grow up Catholic. While his “theology” was certainly off, his experience with church has a lot to teach those of us following Jesus about how those who aren’t following Jesus view the church.

      How is Austin, TX?

  2. Susan phillips says:

    I came across this website by accident, but I listened Carlin’s clip on religion. I thought it was hilarious, and he makes an excellent point. God was created in the image of the men who wrote the Bible and created him. Why else would God come across as an egotistical maniac through most of the Bible?

    You asked what some of the objections are to Christianity? I will not even do business with a Christian because I have found them to be more dishonest when it comes to money matters than almost anyone. But apart from the people themselves, Christianity is not healthy to saddle a child with from the moment he steps on this planet. Would any human parent who even vaguely loves their child raise them with the teaching that if they are displeasing to the parents, there is a pit of fire in the backyard where they will be thrown to burn for all eternity? Christians somehow manage to rationalize that a God of torture is also a God of love. The two can never be synonymous.

    • Aaron says:

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving some thoughts. Unfortunately, as a Christian, I have to agree with your assessment of some Christians. Some are Christians in name only–and thus they give Christianity a really bad name. I also know from wait staff in restaurants that Sundays are their least favorite to work because the church crowd is often the rudest and they tip worse than anyone. But is it fair to lump all Christians into those categories? No, just like it’s unfair to say all atheists and agnostics are pompous angry know-it-alls. Some are, but most atheists and agnostics I know are very kind, considerate people. Likewise, I know (and strive to be like) many Christians who are doing great good in the world at great personal sacrifice.

      Do I agree with your assessments of God in your comment? No. But I really do appreciate your honesty. It’s one thing for a person to reject God on the basis of what God has revealed about Himself. It’s quite another to reject God because of the bad impression his followers have given through their lives that are inconsistent through what they claim to believe. That burden lies on us, not people who don’t believe.

      I hope you’ll stop by again. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Susan says:

    Aaron, I certainly don’t judge Christianity based on the people—although, I’ve certainly had more bad encounters in business with people who post Bible verses all over their offices than I ever have with atheists or agnostics. But I also have some very good friends who are Christians, and I believe that everyone should have the freedom to have whatever belief makes them a better person.

    You are the one who posted on your website that you would like to know the objections people have to Christianity. Are you really serious about that statement? Because I know exactly what I believe and what I don’t believe and why. My biggest reason for objecting to it is the religion itself. I notice that you did not address my comments about Christianity being unhealthy. That tells me something about you. You were probably raised in this belief from birth, and Christianity is so deeply ingrained in you as the “revealed word of God” that you could never begin to consider that perhaps it isn’t healthy or (God forbid)—maybe it isn’t the revealed word of God. (And having grown up in it, I’ve been there and completely understand). You sound like a nice guy, and my guess is that you would never throw one of your own children into a pit of fire for any reason—nor threaten throughout their childhood to do so, but you have justified in your mind that it is okay for God to do so— no matter how horrific. (God is so far above us that we simply cannot understand his atrocities and must accept them).

    Have you ever read Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason?” (You do seem like a guy who likes to consider other opinions). Try posting some of his work on your website and refuting it. I’d love to read it (especially considering no Christian has ever been able to refute him). You talk about the “revealed” word of God. This is what Thomas Paine says about “Revelation.”

    “As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

    No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

    It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.”

    Paine uses the immaculate conception of Mary to make his point about “revelation.” He points out that Mary herself never wrote about this Immaculate Conception. She obviously told it to someone else who probably told it to someone else, and eventually somebody wrote it down. So, it is “hearsay” at best (something that would not hold weight in our own court of law because there was no evidence to support it). The entire gospel is reported to us by a handful of people and all the rest of people throughout eternity are somehow obligated to believe it on “faith”, regardless of the fact that there is no outside evidence to support it (or be thrown into that pit of fire). The closest historian to that time period was Josephus. Have you ever really looked at Josephus? (I picture him as one of those boring guys with spectacles sitting in some accounting office over his books and reporting in detail everything that took place—almost to the point of when people went to the bathroom). But other than a passing statement about someone named Jesus & called the Christ—he never verifies a single thing reported in the New Testament—not the crucifixion—not one miracle.

    The thing about “faith” is that it’s a lousy basis to ask anybody to believe anything—especially something that supposedly happened 2,000 years ago. If your next door neighbor came to you and told you that God had impregnated her, and she was going to give birth to the Lord’s baby, you could accept it on faith or not. You have no way of knowing whether it is true or not, and you should certainly not be threatened with death and torture if you choose not to believe it. God hasn’t revealed it to you. Although, why shouldn’t you believe it? If you accept that God could impregnate one woman who gave birth to his baby 2000 years ago, why could he not choose to do it again at any time? But regardless—No doubt, you would think she had lost her mind. So, what makes it so much more believable from people 2,000 years ago that you never met and have no idea what kind of character they had? Why would God even expect something so bizarre? Mythology was a huge part of the thinking during that time. Gods mating with men and having babies that were half man/half god were very common back then—Jesus wasn’t the first. The whole concept of “salvation” is based on a faulty premise. Christians always say, “God gave us free will and free choice.” No, he didn’t—not if hell is factored into the equation. A free choice would be where you choose Jesus Christ or you don’t, and you walk away, and there are no consequences. The threat of hell if you do not choose Christ takes “free choice” out of the equation. It’s no longer a choice—it’s an ultimatum. Do you really believe God is so insecure that he had to demand that people accept & love and worship him or be tortured forever? Why torture them? Why not just leave them to themselves if he can’t deal with people who don’t bow down & worship him? (And what kind of fragile ego needs that obsessive devotion)?

    Have you read the works of C.S. Lewis? I’ve always thought he was a brilliant man, except he started at the wrong place. He simply did as you have done—he accepted the Bible as the inspired word of God and went from there. Had he started with the question, “Is it really the inspired word of God,” I believe his conclusions would have been quite different. You may remember one of his statements that if Jesus was not the Son of God, he was a liar and a lunatic.” That statement is not necessarily true. As I said before, we have the reports of a handful of people about what actually was said and took place. We don’t know for sure that Jesus actually did make such a statement, and if he did—what he actually meant by it. I don’t trust the gospel writers. Have you ever read in Matthew the account of the crucifixation and how graves supposedly flew open and dead bodies floated around the town? These gospel writers were all supposedly eye witnesses to the events that took place—true? Have you ever noticed that this particular account was left out of all three of the other gospels? Granted, most scholars believe the gospels were not written for some 34 years after the death of Christ, but regardless—I don’t think a bunch of dead people floating around the town would have slipped my mind—even 34 years later. How about you?

    How about the story of the Ten Commandments? (Don’t even get me started on the Old Testament because I could go on forever), but this story is one of the most blatant examples of the mistakes and contradictions in all of the Bible. Read through the entire story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments in Deut. He goes up to Mt. Sinai to get them—right? He stays a long time, and his people start partying. He comes back down & become furious & smashes the commandments. After killing off a significant portion of his people, he goes back up to receive the commandments again. He comes back down with the new commandments. Take a look at the set of commandments he comes back with. Every commandment is different from the first set except three. I don’t mean just a few words changed here and there—I mean TOTALLY different commandments. So what happened? Did God change his mind between visits? And why were those things not brought to our attention as children in Sunday School so that we could make objective opinions about the validity of this book?

    How do Christians know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? Because it says it is—of course. So does the Koran and every other Holy book ever written.

    I think Mark Twain said it best. “The Bible is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”

    Now I’ve told you what some of my objections are to Christianity, and I’ll go away because I don’t know how many Christians read your website, but I do know that Christians become very angry if people don’t believe what they believe. I was once that way, too. Have you ever wondered why Christians become so angry when challenged? If a person is secure in what he believes, he doesn’t care what other people think about it. (I know that they aren’t really secure because I was once there).

    • Aaron says:

      Hey Susan,

      Thanks for writing back, and I’m drop dead serious about the question. I wouldn’t post it if I wasn’t.

      I will get to the particulars of your post as soon as I can. Please give me time to address them. This blog is not my life, and I do have responsibilities outside of it. If it takes a few days, I’m not dodging or ignoring you. I’m probably changing a diaper, doing dishes, or picking up toys. I will only address one thing at a time, and would prefer to address each particular before starting a new discussion (which you are welcome to do). So give me a little time to wade through and digest your response, and I’ll get back to you.

  4. Aaron says:

    OK, Susan… let’s get started.

    I find it interesting that you ask if I really want to know people’s objections to Christianity. I’ve run into similar statements many times. Atheists/agnostics who can be over-the-top (not getting that vibe from you) come at a Christian with an attitude of, “Are you sure you wanna know? Because what I’m going to tell is you gonna blow your mind, and you’ll have no choice but to give up your faith and be ‘enlightened’ like me.” Not all are like that, but the famous neo-Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris) are, as are others.

    I think this ties in with your closing paragraph, which I also find intriguing. Yes, a lot of Christians do get angry and defensive when challenged. This is, to me, one of the weaknesses of the church in America–a great number of Christians are not taught to think critically or to explore other worldviews and belief (or non-belief) systems. When they encounter something new, they naturally go on the defensive. You obviously have thought through your views. I have thought through mine as well–and I’ve read, listened to, talked with (and continue to do so) those with your viewpoint.

    But we would also have to admit that some atheists/agnostics get really angry when someone questions their belief as well. From my experience, it’s often not in a fearful way. It’s in a “I can’t believe those Christians are so ignorant” way. Anger from arrogance, so to speak.

    To wrap up this point, I’m very secure in my faith. Although I did grow up in it, I’ve done (and continue to do) the “homework”, looking at my faith from multiple angles, challenging myself to see it from different perspectives. So it is not because it was “ingrained” in me. I’ve subjected my faith to pretty tight scrutiny. And I’m more convinced than ever that it is true, in spite of the many objections that have been offered to me.

    OK. Enough for now. I’ll look at the concept of revelation next. Although I don’t have “Age of Reason” in my personal library, I’ve got more of Hume’s works that I have read and they talk about similar things. Will pull those things out and brush up on him. (Sweet–“Age of Reason” is available for free download on Google books; now it’s in my library!).

    I really do appreciate your openness and honesty. Thanks for your response. Again, please be patient as it may take some time for me to respond fully.

    • Aaron says:

      I will skip around through the response, as some things I’d like to take more time to digest (like Paine’s comment on revelation, which I do think is faulty).

      I find the comment about free will and choice to be really interesting, because life in general does not work that way. There are consequences to every action, be they good consequences or bad consequences, immediately obvious or very small. For example, every driver knows the consequences of reckless driving–huge fine, possible loss of license, possible jail time (depending on the offense), and even injury and loss of life. Yet it doesn’t stop people from driving like Dale Earnhardt every single day. They know the consequences, yet they make the choice to speed anyway. I know that isn’t a perfect analogy, but the principle is still true–there are no consequenceless choices.

      How does this apply to “God torturing people”? Does God deserve worship? Yes. But does God torture people in hell? I’m not convinced. I think your statement of “Why not just leave them to themselves if he can’t deal with people who don’t bow down & worship him?” is closer to what hell is than God torturing people, like they’re ants under a magnifying glass on a sunny day.

      The statements on hell in the Bible seems to be metaphorical (although some do seem a little more literal), and yes, I know that’s another post–literal, metaphorical, interpretation, etc. Anyway, hell will be a place where people who’ve rejected God will go for eternity, and essentially he leaves them alone. And they’ll regret their choice forever. It will be like “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. Their regret will be like fire and torment. The difference is they brought this on themselves. What does that mean for those who’ve never heard about Jesus? I don’t find that answer easy. It is a difficulty of Christianity that I wrestle with. I know, based on what I’ve learned from the Bible, that what God decides about such people’s eternal destiny will be right.

      Hell is all about God’s holiness–he will not tolerate sin. Hell isn’t about God getting all mad because people didn’t worship him. He deserves our worship because he is God. That’s what the crucifixion was about–God pouring out his wrath on Jesus instead of sinful humanity. The requirement for receiving the benefits of the crucifixion is faith. And that’s something I’ll try to get to in the next reply.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Susan, these are all things that Christians have had to deal with. Those who do not think critically will respond with fear and animosity when confronted with them from an outside source, and may lose their faith. I have tried to think logically about them and I have found that it strengthened my faith. Here are some thoughts off the top of my head.

    Would you feel better if all four gospels had the same stories and the same wording? Because I feel comfortable knowing that there are multiple versions of the same story told by different people. Let’s me know they didn’t corroborate. Same with any other apparent inconsistency in the Bible – no one fixed it or tried to cover it up.

    I’m sorry, Susan, but unless my neighbor gives birth in Bethlehem, the City of David, and can trace her lineage back to King David, and a whole host of other prophecies, I just can’t take her word for it. It was prophesied in the Old Testament that the mother of the messiah would be of good reputation. What does that prove? Can you link “good reputation” to virgin? No. Not unless someone decided to translate the Tanakh (Old Testament) from Hebrew into Greek so the Hellenistic Jews could read it and translated “A girl of good reputation” in Hebrew to “Virgin” in Greek. This was hundreds of years before the pregnancy in question. Here’s one I like, why did shepherds come to visit Jesus as a baby? Does that make any sense to anyone? What if those flocks outside of Bethlehem were to be sacrificed in the temple, and Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God? Oh, it all makes sense now! (See: Alfred Edersheim)

    When Jesus was crucified, his followers went and hid due to fear of persecution – their leader was gone. Then, mysteriously, they changed their minds and went out preaching without fear of violence or death, and indeed were subject to such. What changed?

    We all acknowledge that following God is a matter of faith. If God really wanted people to follow Him, why would He not reveal Himself? Well, if God was seated right over there in all His Glory, and you could see Him, you probably wouldn’t reject Him. But then you have no choice. Maybe He generated these circumstances for a purpose. You could suppose that God was brutal, but let’s break this down logically. The Bible describes God as Love, Light, and the Giver of Life. We have sinned, which is to say that we have departed from the will of God. This requires separation from God, which is then defined as hate, darkness, and death. There are things that we don’t understand about this, but we are led to believe that once a soul is created, it continues forever. Finally, we must admit that if there is a Supreme Creator, He would have the right to do whatever He wanted with us, regardless of our perspective. Which standard are we obliged to use to judge right and wrong, our own, or our Creator’s?

    Why is it that we are only allowed in heaven if we believe in such fantastic stories? We are told to search and we will find, to knock and the door will be opened for us. I believe that if we really want to know the truth, apart from preconceptions, the Spirit will reveal them to us. If you look at it skeptically, these things will not be revealed to you, because you really don’t want to find them. But if you really search, they are there.

    So these are just some thoughts, and how I deal with these questions. And I agree with you, Christians do some pretty terrible things. Why do you think that is?

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